In Dallas, police write $204 traffic tickets to drivers who don't speak English.
Thirty- eight motorists, all Hispanic, have been cited for not speaking English since 2007, according to the Dallas Morning News. It’s not a crime, but at least 20 Dallas police officers must have thought it was since they wrote tickets. Most cases were dismissed, but at least one person paid the fine.
The issue came to light last week when a woman told the news media she was cited for being a "non-English-speaking driver," among other offenses, during an Oct. 2 traffic stop, according to the paper. Police officials initially said the trainee officer who ticketed Ernestina Mondragon, 48, a native Spanish speaker and U.S. resident, had made an isolated rookie mistake.
On Friday, Police Chief David Kunkle announced that officials had discovered dozens of other cases in which officers cited motorists for not speaking English. Kunkle apologized, promised an investigation and said that pending charges would be dropped and that those who paid fines for the charge would be reimbursed.
Not surprisingly, Hispanic leaders are calling for a deeper investigation of possible racial profiling. Police say they plan to look back several more years and include the supervisors who signed off on the tickets in the investigation for possible dereliction of duty.
No doubt, this issue is going to raise even more questions about the how local law enforcement should deal with immigrants. A New York Times editorial yesterday noted that on one side of the argument are the Obama administration and the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, who believe in outsourcing immigration enforcement to local police departments. On the other side are the ranks of police chiefs around the country who argue there is no good reason for turning cops into immigration agents. The Times agreed, but for entirely different reasons.
Such efforts up to now "have been marred by poor training, racial profiling and other abuses -- and widespread fear in the communities that the police are sworn to protect,” the editorial board wrote. “If there is any remaining doubt, just take a look at what happened in Dallas.”
AP Photo: Ernestina Mondragon.